More Than Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder
As the temperature drops and the days get shorter, many people change their wardrobes and routines. But for people with seasonal affective disorder, the change of season is associated with a significant change in mood. This mood change can be overwhelming—causing them to experience a deep depression and a loss of interest in everyday activities.
Seasonal affective disorder, sometimes referred to as “SAD,” is a serious condition that requires your immediate attention. “Affective” refers to your mood—happy, sad, excited, depressed, etc. “Seasonal” indicates that it is affected by the seasons. Most people with SAD experience it in the fall and winter. While it’s less common, some people experience unwelcome changes in mood in the spring and summer.
Symptoms of SAD usually build slowly with the shortening of days that mark winter. The symptoms are alleviated by the change of conditions in spring. The common symptoms of SAD are:
- Increased appetite with weight gain
- Increased sleeping and daytime sleepiness
- Less energy and trouble concentrating in the afternoon
- Loss of interest in work or other activities
- Slow and sluggish movement
- Social withdrawal
- Unhappiness and irritability
Sometimes people with SAD experience thoughts of suicide. This is a symptom that should not be ignored. If you experience such feelings and feel that you need help, call 911 or the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which is available 24 hours every day of the year: 1-800-222-0364.
If you think you may be experiencing SAD or depression—even if you only detect one or two of the symptoms above, consult with a physician at your earliest opportunity. Together, you can develop a treatment plan that fits your needs.
- Light therapy
- People who take drugs that make them more sensitive to light, such as certain psoriasis drugs, antibiotics, or antipsychotics, should avoid light therapy.
- A check-up with your eye doctor is recommended before starting light therapy treatment.
- Antidepressant medications
- Counseling or talk therapy
Don’t be fooled; SAD is a serious disorder. Seek treatment if you’re experiencing symptoms. There are effective therapies that may be able to ease your symptoms and make this winter (and the winters to come) less blue. Remember, your EAP is available to help.